Kevin Lewis

July 27, 2017

On the inability to ignore useless advice: A case for anchoring in the judge-advisor-system
Thomas Schultze, Andreas Mojzisch & Stefan Schulz-Hardt
Experimental Psychology, May/June 2017, Pages 170-183

Research in the judge-advisor-paradigm suggests that advice is generally utilized less than it should be according to its quality. In a series of four experiments, we challenge this widely held assumption. We hypothesize that when advice quality is low, the opposite phenomenon, namely overutilization of advice, occurs. We further assume that this overutilization effect is the result of anchoring: advice serves as an anchor, thus causing an adjustment toward even useless advice. The data of our four experiments support these hypotheses. Judges systematically adjusted their estimates toward advice that we introduced to them as being useless, and this effect was stable after controlling for intentional utilization of this advice. Furthermore, we demonstrate that anchoring-based adjustment toward advice is independent of advice quality. Our findings enhance our understanding of the processes involved in advice taking and identify a potential threat to judgment accuracy arising from an inability to discount useless advice.

Brain Drain: The Mere Presence of One's Own Smartphone Reduces Available Cognitive Capacity
Adrian Ward et al.
Journal of the Association for Consumer Research, April 2017, Pages 140-154

Our smartphones enable - and encourage - constant connection to information, entertainment, and each other. They put the world at our fingertips, and rarely leave our sides. Although these devices have immense potential to improve welfare, their persistent presence may come at a cognitive cost. In this research, we test the "brain drain" hypothesis that the mere presence of one's own smartphone may occupy limited-capacity cognitive resources, thereby leaving fewer resources available for other tasks and undercutting cognitive performance. Results from two experiments indicate that even when people are successful at maintaining sustained attention - as when avoiding the temptation to check their phones - the mere presence of these devices reduces available cognitive capacity. Moreover, these cognitive costs are highest for those highest in smartphone dependence. We conclude by discussing the practical implications of this smartphone-induced brain drain for consumer decision-making and consumer welfare.

Anchoring in financial decision-making: Evidence from Jeopardy!
Michael Jetter & Jay Walker
Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, forthcoming

This paper analyzes 12,596 Daily Double wagering decisions of 6,064 contestants in the US game show Jeopardy!. We exploit a situation in which a player has to, unexpectedly, wager on responding correctly to an unknown clue (known as a Daily Double clue). We find evidence consistent with the hypothesis of contestants anchoring heavily on the initial dollar value of a clue in wagering. This positive relationship remains statistically significant at the one percent level after controlling for other characteristics that may independently affect wagering decisions, such as scores, clue categories, time trends, individual Jeopardy! experience, and player-fixed effects. Exploiting within-player variation only, raising the anchoring amount by $100 translates to an increase of $29 in the wager. An alternative explanation of underlying strategic considerations appears unlikely and results are consistent throughout a number of robustness checks. Overall, these findings suggest that anchoring can play a substantial role in financial decision-making under pressure.

A Birther and a Truther: The Influence of the Authoritarian Personality on Conspiracy Beliefs
Sean Richey
Politics & Policy, June 2017, Pages 465-485

I find that 10 percent of Americans believe in both "trutherism" and "birtherism." Even among citizens who say they like Bush or Obama, or are from the same party, many still believe in conspiracies implicating the presidents. It is crucial to understand why so many Americans believe obviously erroneous conspiracies that denigrate a president who otherwise has their support. I predict that the authoritarian personality creates a predisposition to believe in conspiracies based on the tendency of those high in this trait to have greater anxiety and cognitive difficulties with higher order thinking. Using 2012 American National Election Study data, I find a clear and robust relationship between the authoritarian personality and conspiratorial beliefs. In all models, authoritarianism is a chief predictor for a predisposition toward both conspiratorial beliefs. This suggests that psychological propensities are an important explanation of why so many citizens believe in conspiracy theories.

"I know things they don't know!": The role of need for uniqueness in belief in conspiracy theories
Anthony Lantian et al.
Social Psychology, May/June 2017, Pages 160-173

In the current research, we investigated whether belief in conspiracy theories satisfies people's need for uniqueness. We found that the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories was associated with the feeling of possessing scarce information about the situations explained by the conspiracy theories (Study 1) and higher need for uniqueness (Study 2). Further two studies using two different manipulations of need for uniqueness (Studies 3 and 4) showed that people in a high need for uniqueness condition displayed higher conspiracy belief than people in a low need for uniqueness condition. This conclusion is strengthened by a small-scale meta-analysis. These studies suggest that conspiracy theories may serve people's desire to be unique, highlighting a motivational underpinning of conspiracy belief.

Limited individual attention and online virality of low-quality information
Xiaoyan Qiu et al.
Nature Human Behaviour, June 2017

Social media are massive marketplaces where ideas and news compete for our attention. Previous studies have shown that quality is not a necessary condition for online virality and that knowledge about peer choices can distort the relationship between quality and popularity. However, these results do not explain the viral spread of low-quality information, such as the digital misinformation that threatens our democracy. We investigate quality discrimination in a stylized model of an online social network, where individual agents prefer quality information, but have behavioural limitations in managing a heavy flow of information. We measure the relationship between the quality of an idea and its likelihood of becoming prevalent at the system level. We find that both information overload and limited attention contribute to a degradation of the market's discriminative power. A good tradeoff between discriminative power and diversity of information is possible according to the model. However, calibration with empirical data characterizing information load and finite attention in real social media reveals a weak correlation between quality and popularity of information. In these realistic conditions, the model predicts that low-quality information is just as likely to go viral, providing an interpretation for the high volume of misinformation we observe online.

Changes in cognitive flexibility and hypothesis search across human life history from childhood to adolescence to adulthood
Alison Gopnik et al.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 July 2017, Pages 7892-7899

How was the evolution of our unique biological life history related to distinctive human developments in cognition and culture? We suggest that the extended human childhood and adolescence allows a balance between exploration and exploitation, between wider and narrower hypothesis search, and between innovation and imitation in cultural learning. In particular, different developmental periods may be associated with different learning strategies. This relation between biology and culture was probably coevolutionary and bidirectional: life-history changes allowed changes in learning, which in turn both allowed and rewarded extended life histories. In two studies, we test how easily people learn an unusual physical or social causal relation from a pattern of evidence. We track the development of this ability from early childhood through adolescence and adulthood. In the physical domain, preschoolers, counterintuitively, perform better than school-aged children, who in turn perform better than adolescents and adults. As they grow older learners are less flexible: they are less likely to adopt an initially unfamiliar hypothesis that is consistent with new evidence. Instead, learners prefer a familiar hypothesis that is less consistent with the evidence. In the social domain, both preschoolers and adolescents are actually the most flexible learners, adopting an unusual hypothesis more easily than either 6-y-olds or adults. There may be important developmental transitions in flexibility at the entry into middle childhood and in adolescence, which differ across domains.

Comparison Neglect in Upgrade Decisions
Aner Sela & Robyn LeBoeuf
Journal of Marketing Research, forthcoming

To properly evaluate a potential product upgrade, consumers should compare the upgraded option with the product they already own to assess the upgrade's added utility. However, although consumers explicitly and spontaneously acknowledge the importance of comparing the upgrade with the status quo, the authors find that they often fail to do so. Consequently, consumers frequently buy product upgrades that they would not have bought had they followed their own advice. Five experiments, involving both real and hypothetical upgrade decisions, show that even when the status quo option is represented in the decision context, if consumers are not explicitly prompted to reflect on it or compare it with the upgraded option, they often do not compare it with the upgrade and thus show an elevated likelihood of upgrading. The experiments suggest that this "comparison neglect" increases upgrade likelihood by making people overlook the similarities between the upgraded and status quo options and that it persists even when deliberation effort is high. The findings have important implications for theory, marketing practice, and consumer welfare.

How Self-Control Shapes the Meaning of Choice
Aner Sela, Jonah Berger & Joshua Kim
Journal of Consumer Research, forthcoming

Self-control is an important driver of choice, but might it also change choice's meaning, making it seem less indicative of preference? Decades of research suggest that preference and choice are often intertwined. Choice often originates from one's preferences. As a result, choice is often seen as a reflection of preference, leading people to infer their preferences by observing their own choices. We suggest that self-control attenuates this process. Because self-control often overrides personal desires in favor of external constraints, norms, and long-term considerations, we propose that self-control is associated with a sense of attenuated correspondence between choice and individual preference. Five experiments suggest that when the notion of self-control is salient, people are less likely to see their choices as reflecting their preferences or to infer preference from previous choices. As a result, evoking the notion of self-control attenuates the tendency to view choice as indicative of preference, even in contexts unrelated to where self-control was originally evoked. Thus, self-control shapes not only choice itself, but also the perceived meaning of choice.

Rejecting a Bad Option Feels Like Choosing a Good One
Hanna Perfecto et al.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, forthcoming

Across 4,151 participants, the authors demonstrate a novel framing effect, attribute matching, whereby matching a salient attribute of a decision frame with that of a decision's options facilitates decision-making. This attribute matching is shown to increase decision confidence and, ultimately, consensus estimates by increasing feelings of metacognitive ease. In Study 1, participants choosing the more attractive of two faces or rejecting the less attractive face reported greater confidence in and perceived consensus around their decision. Using positive and negative words, Study 2 showed that the attribute's extremity moderates the size of the effect. Study 3 found decision ease mediates these changes in confidence and consensus estimates. Consistent with a misattribution account, when participants were warned about this external source of ease in Study 4, the effect disappeared. Study 5 extended attribute matching beyond valence to objective judgments. The authors conclude by discussing related psychological constructs as well as downstream consequences.

Enhancement of multitasking performance and neural oscillations by transcranial alternating current stimulation
Wan-Yu Hsu et al.
PLoS ONE, May 2017

Multitasking is associated with the generation of stimulus-locked theta (4-7 Hz) oscillations arising from prefrontal cortex (PFC). Transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS) is a non-invasive brain stimulation technique that influences endogenous brain oscillations. Here, we investigate whether applying alternating current stimulation within the theta frequency band would affect multitasking performance, and explore tACS effects on neurophysiological measures. Brief runs of bilateral PFC theta-tACS were applied while participants were engaged in a multitasking paradigm accompanied by electroencephalography (EEG) data collection. Unlike an active control group, a tACS stimulation group showed enhancement of multitasking performance after a 90-minute session (F1,35 = 6.63, p = 0.01, ηp2 = 0.16; effect size = 0.96), coupled with significant modulation of posterior beta (13-30 Hz) activities (F1,32 = 7.66, p = 0.009, ηp2 = 0.19; effect size = 0.96). Across participant regression analyses indicated that those participants with greater increases in frontal theta, alpha and beta oscillations exhibited greater multitasking performance improvements. These results indicate frontal theta-tACS generates benefits on multitasking performance accompanied by widespread neuronal oscillatory changes, and suggests that future tACS studies with extended treatments are worth exploring as promising tools for cognitive enhancement.

Fact-Checking Effectiveness as a Function of Format and Tone: Evaluating and
Dannagal Young et al.
Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, forthcoming

This experiment explores the role of information format (print vs. video) and tone (humorous-nonhumorous) in shaping message interest and belief correction in the context of political fact-checking (N = 525). To understand the mechanisms by which audience misperceptions may be reduced, this experiment tests the belief-correcting effectiveness of a humorous fact-checking video produced by, a long-form print article on the same topic, a nonhumorous video debunking the same set of claims, an unrelated humorous video, and a non-stimulus control group. Mediating psychological mechanisms (message interest, counterargumentation, message discounting) and message perceptions (message confusion) are explored. Results suggest video (humorous or nonhumorous) is an effective way to reduce audience misperceptions by increasing message attention and reducing confusion.

Social Norm Perception in Groups With Outliers
Jennifer Dannals & Dale Miller
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Social outliers draw a lot of attention from those inside and outside their group and yet little is known about their impact on perceptions of their group as a whole. The present studies examine how outliers influence observers' summary perceptions of a group's behavior and inferences about the group's descriptive and prescriptive norms. Across 4 studies (N = 1,718) we examine how observers perceive descriptive and prescriptive social norms in groups containing outliers of varying degrees. We find consistent evidence that observers overweight outlying behavior when judging the descriptive and prescriptive norms, but overweight outliers less as they become more extreme, especially in perceptions of the prescriptive norm. We find this pattern across norms pertaining to punctuality (Studies 1-2 and 4) and clothing formality (Study 3) and for outliers who are both prescriptively and descriptively deviant (e.g., late arrivers), as well as for outliers who are only descriptive deviants (e.g., early arrivers). We further demonstrate that observers' perceptions of the group shift in the direction of moderate outliers. This occurs because observers anchor on the outlier's behavior and adjust their recollections of nonoutlying individuals, making their inferences about the group's average behavior more extreme.

Is General Intelligence Little More Than the Speed of Higher-Order Processing?
Anna-Lena Schubert, Dirk Hagemann & Gidon Frischkorn
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Individual differences in the speed of information processing have been hypothesized to give rise to individual differences in general intelligence. Consistent with this hypothesis, reaction times (RTs) and latencies of event-related potential have been shown to be moderately associated with intelligence. These associations have been explained either in terms of individual differences in some brain-wide property such as myelination, the speed of neural oscillations, or white-matter tract integrity, or in terms of individual differences in specific processes such as the signal-to-noise ratio in evidence accumulation, executive control, or the cholinergic system. Here we show in a sample of 122 participants, who completed a battery of RT tasks at 2 laboratory sessions while an EEG was recorded, that more intelligent individuals have a higher speed of higher-order information processing that explains about 80% of the variance in general intelligence. Our results do not support the notion that individuals with higher levels of general intelligence show advantages in some brain-wide property. Instead, they suggest that more intelligent individuals benefit from a more efficient transmission of information from frontal attention and working memory processes to temporal-parietal processes of memory storage.

When Risk Is Weird: Unexplained Transaction Features Lower Valuations
Robert Mislavsky & Uri Simonsohn
Management Science, forthcoming

We define transactions as weird when they include unexplained features, that is, features not implicitly, explicitly, or self-evidently justified, and propose that people are averse to weird transactions. In six experiments, we show that risky options used in previous research paradigms often attained uncertainty via adding an unexplained transaction feature (e.g., purchasing a coin flip or lottery), and behavior that appears to reflect risk aversion could instead reflect an aversion to weird transactions. Specifically, willingness to pay drops just as much when adding risk to a transaction as when adding unexplained features. Holding transaction features constant, adding additional risk does not further reduce willingness to pay. We interpret our work as generalizing ambiguity aversion to riskless choice.

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